Troubleshooter: New suggestions for car seats

March 22, 2011 5:21:35 PM PDT
Mothers aren't so sure about new suggestions that say two years for children in car seats and as many as 12 years until children can get out of their booster seats.

"We're having fewer admissions to the emergency room for whiplash style injuries due to panic stops or crashes," said Rosy Rosenthal, WakeMed. "Fewer trips to [the] pediatrician's office and the baby stays healthier longer."

Rosenthal makes sure newborns are safely secured in their car seats when leaving the hospital. He says the hospital has been using the new guidelines for years.

Studies show rear facing is safer because that direction distributes the entire force along the back of the child's body, whereas if they were facing forward, the force only is distributed against the straps.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, just announced the new guidelines. It used to be that one year and 20 pounds was the benchmark for forward facing babies in car seats. Now, that age has been bumped to two.

"We're 75 percent safer with your child facing rear," Rosenthal said.

But parents wonder how you can keep growing children in cramped car seats an extra year?

"I think they would run out of leg room pretty quick," parent Sara Larson said.

A mom of three, Larson was shocked to hear the recommendation of keeping children in boosters until they're 4'9" or 12 years old. But Jessica Childers likes the guidelines. Her son is four and still in a car seat.

"He could be in a booster, but I don't want him to be in a booster yet," Childers said. "I think he still needs to be in a car seat."

Rosenthal agrees and hopes more parents will too.

"It hopefully will save lives and hopefully save injuries," he said.

It's important to point out that the recommendations are suggestions, not laws. One other suggestion recommends that children need stay out of the front seat of vehicles until they're at least 13 years old.

A lot of the guidelines are based on of studies in Sweden where children stay rear facing seats until the age of four and in boosters until they're 4'9". Sweden's death rate for children in crashes is the lowest in the world.

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